The rise of micro-volunteering and a very British volunteer revolution

Micro-volunteeringDigital and social media makes it easy for volunteers to actively engage with their favourite museums, arts organisations and charities, while many more people are prepared to give short bursts of time rather than a longer term commitment to volunteering.  Put the two together (digital and short bursts of volunteering activity) you have the rise of micro-volunteering.

Micro-volunteering doesn’t always require digital technology however, see the examples below, but it is an important impetus behind the popularity of micro-volunteering in the UK.   Engaging volunteers in this way can create a  long tail effect, simply driving the numbers up with many more people giving shorter periods of time creating more volunteering time overall.

Micro-volunteering can be performed remotely and is particularly attractive to younger volunteers.  Stats show that more and more young people want to volunteer, but in a way that suits their lifestyle.  The UK really is the champion of micro-volunteering.  More than half of all micro-volunteering activities took place in the UK during 2015.  Australia (33%) saw the next highest interest in micro-volunteering in 2015, while in the US it is growing, but from the low base of 3%.

Innovation foundation Nesta has predicted 2017 to be “the year of microvolunteering” – and lots of organisations are keen to use this flexible approach to 21st century volunteering.  In England, 15.9m individuals volunteer frequently from an overall population of 53.9m. The value of this has been estimated to be between £23.9 billion (The Office for National Statistics) and £53 billion (DWP).  The potential of effectively engaging volunteers is clear, while it can be argued that in this country we are experiencing a volunteer revolution.

Volunteer Makers is currently running a national programme promoting Blended Volunteering, supported by Arts Council England.  Our own technology can deliver both regular long-term volunteering with micro-volunteering.  We are looking to prove a link between growing a community through micro-volunteering and increasing the numbers of people giving a more long-term commitment to supporting organisations.

To celebrate micro-volunteering day here is our shout-out to micro-volunteering champions we are working with and who are connecting with and experiencing a real value exchange with their volunteers.

Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums run nine galleries and museums across the North East.  They launched their Volunteer Maker platform just a few weeks ago and are already seeing micro-volunteer numbers grow rapidly into the hundreds.  We particularly like these inspired micro-volunteering challenges:

Activity: Fact of the day
What’s involved: Help their History team by contributing to a crowdsourced collection of interesting historical facts about the North East which they will use to create new and distinct content for their social media channels.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Log a wildlife sighting
What’s involved: Record and submit local wildlife sightings while out and about.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Donate your junk!
What’s involved: A call out for your recyclables and old, useless tech!
Get involved: Here

Corinium Museum is located at the heart of Cirencester, the ‘Capital of the Cotswolds’. Their principal collection consists of the highly significant finds from the Roman town of Corinium. Growing their community of volunteers is at the heart of the museum’s vision and here is how they are doing it, on their recently launched Volunteer Makers platform.

Activity Research a Mystery Object
What’s involved:  The museum is looking for researchers to help identify mystery objects in their collection. Your research will help spread new light on the collections, create a better understanding of the material the museum holds and give you an opportunity to practise your research skills
Get involved: Here 

Activity: Be a garden volunteer
What’s involved: The museums is looking for a volunteer to help maintain and develop our Roman Garden.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Trial a trail
What’s involved: The challenge is to help he museum trial a new gallery trail at the design stage for museum families and schools.
Get involved: Here

Wardown House Museum and Art Gallery has been pioneering micro-volunteering for many years. After setting up their Museum Makers platform over 5 years ago, in the first two years the museum grew from having 40 occasional volunteers to having more than 120 active volunteers that work on direct museum projects involving the collections, events, talks and tours. Added to that they built up a community of 1500 online Museum Makers who support and advocate the museum through mainly microvolunteering activities.  Having a successful community-driven museum has helped this museum secure £3.5m capital funding and refurbished the museum.

Activity: Create a Pinterest board for all your ideas for the museum
What’s involved: What would you put in your ideal exhibition? Hats? Toys? Luton life? Build your dream museum exhibition on Pinterest and then share it with Museum Makers Pinterest account.
Get involved: Here

Activity: Bookplate Illustration
What’s involved: A bookplate is a small print or decorative label pasted into the inside cover of a book, to indicate its owner. The museum is looking for a bookplate design that  will go on open display in the Library.
Get involved: Here

ActivitySign up as a School Museum Maker
What’s involved: Schools can become Museum Makers to, so sign up today. There are lots of ways to get involved as a Museum Maker:

  • Visiting the museum as a class or whole school
  • Inform the shape of our schools offer to keep it relevant and fresh
  • Supporting the development of new sessions by being a pilot school
  • Taking part in educational sessions at the museum
  • Attending our Schools Museum Maker forum
  • Fundraising

    Get involved:  Here

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